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Freedom sSisters
 Of course the army aims to betray us, one of them said.  I never doubted
this. But they hadn t the means, until
 
  surely he won t dare, someone else cut in.
 Surely! Surely you won t assume anything this time!
 Why go to all the trouble of seizing the karenite if they were going to
render it worthless?
They all started talking again.
 Are they the high magias? I asked my guide.
Yes.
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 Where is Xanthe? Didn t she report what happened?
Silence.
Piecing together the conversation, I thought that they did think Kyros had
stolen it. They thought that Xanthe had lied about Lauria s death, and Kyros
and Lauria had been working together.  She s his daughter, after all, one of
them said.
I wanted to find Zhanna or Jaran, but someone was shaking me, dragging me
back. It was still mostly dark.
 Someone s coming, Alibek said.
I sat up.  Are we going to break the spell-chain?
 How much water remains? Alibek asked Lauria.
 I don t think we have time to ask, Lauria said.
 Put down the palanquin, Zivar said to her own djinni.  I know you re going
to do it.
Lauria looked at me.  I m not going to decide this on my own. But yes. I ve
thought about it, and I think we should do it. It might not be worth the
destruction if it were just to save the Alashi or just to free the Danibeki.
But it s also to free the djinni. And to prevent the djinni from ever
enslaving us.

I nodded. So did Alibek and Zivar. Kyros was still sleeping.
 Let s do it, I said.  Let s do it now.
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Freedom sSisters
We put down somewhere on the steppe. The eastern sky was faintly gray. I
smelled dry grass and cool air, and felt a rush of longing to be back with the
Alashi.
Soon.
 Everyone find two rocks, Lauria said. We were near a rockfall, and I dug out
a flat stone, and another I could hold comfortably in my fist. Lauria dropped
the spell-chain on the ground and spread it out into a big circle.
 I think it s best if we space ourselves out and all smash the first stones
together, Lauria said.  On the count of three. Then move on around the
circle, breaking the binding stones as fast as we can.
We took our places.
 Do you want to count? Lauria asked me.
My mouth went dry and I almost couldn t speak.  The world will be made new, I
said. Then I raised my stone.
 One, I said.  Two. In the lantern light, I saw Zivar, Alibek, and Lauria
raise their stones, as well.  Three.
I brought my stone down. I had seen djinni freed this way before, but this
time, I thought I heard a clap of thunder as we brought our rocks down. The
binding stone shattered to dust under my own rock. I moved quickly to the
side, searching for the next karenite bead.
In the twilight, the karenite beads were hard to see. If I wasn t sure whether
a bead was karenite or something else, I smashed it. I had hoped to hear the
voices of the djinni Lauria could hear them speaking when she freed them but I
didn t. Maybe they were too far away. I could hear my own heart beating, and I
could hear the clatter of the rocks against each other.
The sun was rising when we finished. I scanned the sky to our west but
couldn t see our pursuers yet. Lauria took the pincers and snapped one of the
links, then started passing the chain through her hand to look for any last
pieces of karenite.  Now what? Alibek asked.
 I dreamed last night about the Sisterhood, I said.  I saw them arguing over
what to do. It seemed like a djinn-
sent dream. They believe Kyros did it. I think they think he wants to destroy
the gate.
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 We need to keep them uncertain, Lauria said.
 They won t be looking for travelers on the ground, Alibek said.  We could
bait them by sending the empty palanquin away they d probably never catch up.
 We have no horses& 
 So? We have feet.
 We d have to carry Kyros, unless you think we can wake him up, Lauria said.
 He d have no reason to try to walk quickly.
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Freedom sSisters
 Sure he would, Alibek said.  He knows we ll settle for leaving him dead.
 The palanquin will only work as bait if they re looking for a palanquin,
rather than the five of us,  Zivar said.
 Or the spell-chain.
My head came up.  They re probably looking for the spell-chain, I said.  We
could leave it on the palanquin.
Zivar shook Kyros awake and dragged him out of the palanquin.
 Let s lighten the load as much as possible, Alibek said. We took out the
wicker basket, the jugs of water and wine, the remaining food, and of course
the bottle of syrup and Alibek s sword. There were cushions and blankets
inside, so we pulled all those out, too, leaving silk-covered walls and the
rug on the floor.
 All done? Lauria asked, walking up with the spell-chain bundled in her
hands. We nodded. She had coiled the chain, and she set it neatly inside the
palanquin.
 Where should I send it? Zivar asked.
Lauria thought it over.  Casseia, perhaps? It s where the other great river
turns south perhaps we d make the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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